Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle
Just the name Pitfall sends my mind back in time to the days when my biggest concern in life was how I was going to score a quarter to get a pack of baseball cards (along with the stick of gum that tasted like cardboard). Nowadays, you can't do much with a quarter, but Pitfall Harry is making his debut in the 32-bit world. As with all games based on the old favorites, I was a bit apprehensive about getting my hopes up too high—we all know how easy it is to get burned. Will I be sitting here 15 years from now, reminiscing about how the name Pitfall 3D reminds me of a time when gasoline was only a buck per gallon? I really don't think so.
Pitfall 3D is an action platform game starring the infamous Pitfall Harry. It is up to you to guide Harry through a unique world of vines, acid pits, lava, dissolving platforms, scorpions and shape-shifting beasts. This game is not much like the original, but it does not really try to be. I mean, if you have the technology available, why not use it, right?
Pitfall 3D is best described as a platform game with some adventure thrown in for good measure. The heart of the game is unquestionably platform. You will spend a majority of your time hopping from platform to platform, gathering crystals and looking for hidden areas. Sounds like a platform game to me. The thing is, it seems that they are trying to hide this fact. The box screams out at you with claims of "true 360 degree exploration" and "next generation adventure." These claims are not really false, but a bit misleading.
On a positive note, this game is one of the best 3D-style games around. A common problem with 3D games seems to be the difficult camera angles. There was rarely an instance in this game that I did not have a fairly clear view of where I was going and what I was going after. On occasion, it was a bit tricky to judge depth, but for the most part it was pretty decent.
The game did offer some secrets that, once you found them, were pretty cool. The level design was such that there was a beaten path that you would usually follow. It was even marked with directional arrows from time to time. If you followed these arrows, you would eventually make it to the end of the level. The fun part was actually looking off the beaten path, trying to locate the secret areas. Most of the time they were fairly obvious; you just had to go out of your way a little bit to find them.
I had mixed feelings about the control of Harry. On one hand, it took me a long time to get a feeling of when to jump and how far Harry actually would jump. Usually in a platform game, your character will jump and you can either control him in the air, or he will not jump very far. It seems Harry has been trying out for the Olympics long jump team because when he jumps, he really lets go. This resulted in numerous occasions where all that was necessary was to walk across to the next platform, and I would jump and overshoot every time. It took me forever to get out of the habit of jumping on a moving platform. I guess this was my problem and not really a game design problem, but it was still annoying. Conversely, the game did do something I really liked. Since you are scaling canyons and such, you are constantly near edges just waiting to fall. In some games, you would just fall. In this game, Harry would get to the edge and sort of stumble, giving you a chance to back up instead of plunging to your death every time. I thought this was great. If you fell, it was definitely your fault, and not the fault of the game.
Each level of the game has an objective to be accomplished before you are able to move onward. This object usually entails flipping switches, pulling levers, or a combination of things. For example, one level has you pulling down levers to line up lenses. You have to do this to a number of different levers scattered throughout the level. This means that your goal is to pull down four levers, and each is off on its own separate path with its own obstacles to overcome.
One thing I didn't particularly like about the game was that it was repetitive. It seemed like every level was just more of the same, but a little harder. I mean, how many moving platforms can you jump on, or how many swinging rings can you hook with your pick? Sure, you get a few disappearing platforms and some monsters to fight against, but after the third or fourth level, I stopped thinking that maybe the next level would be different. The objective was different, and getting there got a bit harder, but the basic idea remained the same.
There were lots of little nagging things that did not really affect the gameplay much, but did get on my nerves. For example, if you killed a large enemy in the path, it was always a pain to jump over its body. The game would sort of tweak out and make an obnoxious noise until you were far enough clear of the mound of dead beast. This also happened when you were too close to rocks, ledges, or other obstacles that you had to jump. Also, it was difficult to aim your pick when using it as a weapon. You would have to crouch down and smash the scorpions, and I frequently found that Harry would swing away from the scorpion instead of at it. This made things very frustrating.
The graphics were a mixed bag. Everything was quite detailed, but too dark. However, you could adjust the "gamma" to lighten things up a little. The first thing that I would do was crank this setting up as bright as possible. This did reduce the problem some, but it was still a bit too dark for my tastes. The animations of Harry were very well done, and you actually felt like Harry was a real person, which helped things out quite a bit.
To be blunt about it, I was disappointed with this game. There was nothing too terrible about it, but there was nothing overly exciting either. I got bored after the first few levels, and it did not help that the levels did not change much the further into the game I went. If you are a die-hard platform fan, give this one a try and see if it's up to your tastes. Otherwise, I suggest a rental at most.